Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled

Terry Adkins

Lévy Gorvy, New York

January 10 - February 17, 2018

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Lévy Gorvy presented Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled (2018), its debut solo exhibition devoted to the acclaimed artist and composer after announcing its representation of the Estate of Terry Adkins. The exhibition explored the visual and conceptual concerns that defined the late artist’s sculptural output, inviting a new appreciation of his unique interdisciplinary practice.

Curated by Charles Gaines, Adkins’s close friend and frequent collaborator, The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled illuminated a revolutionary oeuvre through fresh eyes, grounded in the conceptual and personal rapport between these two artists. It highlighted the physical force through which Adkins activated materials in space, with an emphasis on the pure action of constructing and operating within the realm of abstracted narrative.

“My quest has been to find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be, and sculpture as ethereal as music is,” Adkins commented. In an effort to infuse his sculptures with the intangible lyricism of music, he expanded his approach to materials as both props for performances and monuments to the feelings that he extracted from them. The exhibition included works that accompanied his performance Buffet Flat (2008–09); the blown-glass figurines are identical except for their discordant surface texture and hue. No longer accessories to a theatrical set, these amorphous shapes acquired an aura of their own, frozen in anticipation of musical accompaniment. While such totemic “smooth” works are characterized by modesty, other works on view revealed Adkins’s distinctive approach to acoustics.

Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled included works spanning over three decades of Adkins’s career (1986–2013), which ended when he passed away unexpectedly in February 2014 at the age of 59. The exhibition focused on the formal methods he employed to distill his art down to the very “essence” of his materials, often mining the history of the African diaspora for marginalized forms and figures. By reconsidering and reconfiguring established narratives in his installations and performances, Adkins sought access to a deeper realm of experience: a “spirit world,” as he called it, contained within each object and individual.


Selected Artworks

    • Terry Adkins
    • Bessie Smith Head, Red, 2007
    • Blown glass
    • 20 × 16 × 11 inches (50.8 × 40.6 × 27.9 cm)
    • Terry Adkins
    • Native Son (Circus), 2006
    • Cymbals, armature, and additional technical components
    • 20 × 96 inches (50.8 × 243.8 cm)
    • Terry Adkins
    • Matchbox Blue, 2003
    • Aluminum
    • 42 × 28 × 18 inches (106.7 × 71.1 × 45.7 cm)
    • Terry Adkins
    • Bona Fide, 2000
    • Stencil board
    • 86 inches (218.4 cm)